A Strong Merit Promotion Process Builds a Strong Federal Workforce

The federal workforce’s key role is to provide quality service to the public. The merit system is a way to hire and promote personnel who exemplify honesty, efficiency, and productivity. When employees take pride in their work, organizations and agencies reap the rewards with the delivery of successful products and services. Merit promotion principles are designed to keep employees engaged, competitive, and constantly striving for quality, integrity, and success.

Based on competitive performance, merit systems are sometimes criticized for creating conflict and uncooperative behavior between employees. Performance compensation creates an environment that may put employees at odds with each other and lead to unwanted behavior that affects productivity. With a human capital strategy, human resources can plan, develop, appraise and reward based on merit promotion principles.

To make merit promotions work effectively, federal agencies must address critical skill shortages and continue to develop the capacity to measure and address existing mission-critical skills gaps. With the help of workforce analytics to predict and mitigate future gaps, agencies can effectively carry out their missions with satisfied employees. 

Federal agencies support and follow the Merit System Principles that provide guidance on the expectations of how human resources (HR) convey core values. As a framework for responsible behavior, the merit system principles represent the expected outcome of good management. The merit system principles should be considered in every HR decision. 

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 incorporated the Merit System Principles as a national policy to provide the American people with a productive workforce and quality of public service. To build a strong federal workforce, merit system principles must be implemented and stay consistent with federal personnel management.

The nine principles include:

Recruit, hire and promote based on merit and open competition.

To acquire and promote qualified candidates, agencies and organizations must find candidates from all segments of society. Advancement should be solely on the basis of ability, knowledge, and skills. Assure that every promotion is an open and fair competition and everyone receives equal opportunity.

Treat all employees and applicants fair and equal.

In all aspects of personnel management, applicants and employees are to be considered without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicap. Show respect for privacy and constitutional rights at all times. Provide the same experience to every candidate and employee. A merit system’s underlying values include a strong sense of fairness. 

Provide equal pay for equal work and reward excellent performance.

To help agencies and organizations, the federal classification system or the General Schedule (GS), was designed to uphold the merit system principles of equal pay and equal work. To meet the needs of the modern workforce, the GS must keep pace with the government’s ever-changing requirements. While pay is a critical factor when candidates pursue a federal job, many government jobs offer a competitive salary with rapid promotion potential and benefits. Compensation is paid in accordance with government-regulated pay scales.

Maintain high standards of integrity and conduct. 

From top management to entry-level positions, exemplary behavior is expected. Every decision should take into account the effect on public interest, employee safety, and organization objectives. When ethical standards are established upfront, employees and candidates are treated with respect and honesty. As a result, the public, agencies, and other organizations receive quality products and services as promised. 

Manage employees efficiently and effectively. 

Track performance, training, and productivity to monitor and analyze data to determine merit promotions. Learn first hand what skills are needed, which employees need training, and who is performing above expectations. When there are continuous assessment and improvement, these changes characterize an organization driven by merit. 

Retain or separate employees based on performance.

Organizations with merit principles do not tolerate poor performance. The individual opportunity the merit principles protect must be matched by individual accountability. Appraisal requirements create a foundation for accountability. Employees must be told what is expected, be given an opportunity to perform, be appraised periodically and be held accountable when they fail to perform. 

Educate and train to increase performance. 

Provide appropriate development and training directed at the improvement to individuals and organizational performance. Agencies should give employees a wide variety of learning opportunities, particularly when a work process or technology has been re-engineered to enhance public service delivery.

Protect employees from improper influences. 

Employees should be protected against arbitrary action, personal favoritism, or coercion for partisan political purposes. It is also prohibited to use official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with the results of an election.

Safeguard employees against reprisal for lawful disclosure of information. 

Employees must be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information such as the case when the employee believes a violation of any law, rule, or regulation has occurred in the organization. Employees should report mismanagement, abuse of authority, or a specific danger to public health and safety. 

All federal employees are responsible to uphold the Merit System Principles. Most importantly, agency leaders and decision-makers are the role models for the core values of the merit promotion principles. Ensure employees, including HR staff, receive adequate training to understand the merit principles regarding their rights, responsibilities, and procedures. To organize the data, consider the implementation of tools to help manage and track recruitment, hiring, training, and production, like the solutions from Acendre. Take a closer look at how you can bring it all together in one enterprise talent management system. Contact us today. 

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